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A trio made to break Redhawks softball records
Other than more team success, Michelle Summers, Megan McDonald and Elaine Fisher wouldn't change a thing about their experience at Southeast Missouri State.
"It's been great," said Summers, as McDonald and Fisher nodded in agreement.
The wins haven't come as frequently as they would have liked, but it's hard to blame that on the Redhawks' three record-setting seniors.
The Southeast softball team closes out its regular season this weekend as Jacksonville State visits Cape Girardeau for a three-game Ohio Valley Conference series. There will be a 1 p.m. doubleheader Saturday and 1 p.m. contest Sunday.
The Redhawks (24-25, 11-13) are tied for seventh in the 10-team OVC, while JSU (32-14, 19-4) has clinched the regular-season title.
Only the top six finishers make the conference tournament, an event Southeast is in serious danger of missing for the second straight season after that had not happened in the program's history before last year.
"It's disappointing," McDonald said. "Last year we didn't make the tournament, and now we have to win these last three just to have a chance."
Summers, McDonald and Fisher have been part of Southeast squads that have gone 99-106 with only one winning season, but the three have done everything in their power to get the program back to the level when it dominated the OVC for much of the 1990s.
Third baseman Summers, shortstop McDonald and pitcher Fisher all rank high on most of Southeast's career and single-season statistical lists.
"They've all had great careers for us," said Lana Richmond, who with more than 750 wins in 26 seasons at Southeast is among the nation's winningest softball coaches. "Not only have they been great players, but great people.
"You just don't replace players like that."
Mighty mite slugger
Summers, a native of Glendale, Calif., hit just one home run during her high school career -- and that came in her last game.
All the 5-foot Summers has done since then is shatter many of Southeast's power records.
Summers has produced four of the top five home run seasons in school history, including the record 14 she had last year and the 13 she has this season.
Summers is Southeast's career home run leader with 48. Among the other categories she leads in are doubles (47), RBIs (132) and runs scored (160).
"A lot of it has to do with strength training," Summers said. "I never did any in high school."
She did not expect to own many of Southeast's offensive records when she arrived on campus.
"I was never a home run hitter," she said.
Summers, a general studies major scheduled to graduate next year, plans to become a teacher and softball coach.
"I want to give back what I got out of it," she said.
What Summers has gotten out of her experience at Southeast is nothing but positive memories, particularly the relationships with her teammates.
"It's been a great four years. I wish I could have another four years," she said. "I've met friends here that I'll have for life."
This year, Summers is batting .395 with 13 homers, 13 doubles, 40 RBIs and 38 runs scored. She ranks third in the OVC in batting average, second in hits, third in homers, third in doubles, fourth in RBIs and fifth in runs scored.
"It's disappointing we haven't done better," said Summers, a four-year starter. "My expectations were high, but that's how it goes."
Local girl makes good
McDonald didn't have to travel far to play for Southeast. She grew up in Cape Girardeau and attended Central High School.
She said competing for her hometown university has been one of the highlights of her career.
"My family have all been able to come out. My dad loves it," said McDonald, who said her mother and father coached her while growing up. "Just being with all my teammates ... we all get along. We'll be friends for life."
McDonald, also a four-year starter, joins Summers in ranking high in many of Southeast's single-season and career statistical categories.
If it wasn't for Summers, McDonald would lead the way in several categories, as she is second in career homers with 30 and second in career doubles with 46 (just one behind Summers).
A good weekend could vault McDonald into a coveted record. She enters play Saturday with a .413 batting average that is tied with former Southeast great Kim Palmer for the highest single-season mark.
Like Summers, McDonald said she never expected to dot Southeast's record book.
"In high school I was never a record-setter," she said.
McDonald, a Southeast Scholar Athlete, is scheduled to graduate in December with a degree in speech pathology, after which she plans to obtain her master's from Southeast.
McDonald said her goal is to work with stroke victims, an area she became interested in after her father had a stroke several years ago, although that hasn't kept him from being a fixture at her games.
"That's kind of where my motivation comes from," she said.
McDonald currently has the OVC's No. 2 batting average, while ranking first in doubles with 15 and hits with 64. She also has eight homers and 38 RBIs.
"Megan and Michelle are probably the two most feared hitters in the OVC," Richmond said. "They've been our offensive leaders since they were freshmen, and their defense has been invaluable."
Fisher, from St. Peters, Mo., saw quite a bit of action as a freshman, but she was not Southeast's primary pitcher, logging 91 innings.
She has been the Redhawks' workhorse ever since -- something Richmond regrets at times.
Fisher logged 227 innings last season, which ranks third all-time at Southeast. With 222 2/3 innings already this season, she easily will surpass that figure before the weekend is over.
"She's been our workhorse for three years," said Richmond, who has had trouble finding another reliable hurler during that time. "I've had to pitch her too much this year. She's worn down."
Not that Fisher seems to mind as she said she's ready to take the ball whenever her coach calls upon her.
Fisher's only regret is that she can't pitch a whole lot more. Like Summers and McDonald, Fisher doesn't welcome the impending end of her college softball career.
"It's bittersweet and sad," she said. "It seems like it was yesterday when I was stepping on the field for my freshman year."
Fisher is Southeast's all-time strikeout leader with 493, and she has the most appearances (148) in program history while also leading in saves (7).
In addition, Fisher ranks high in many other career and single-season categories. Like Summers and McDonald, she never expected it.
"I only had 90 innings my freshman year," she said. "I went straight up from there."
Fisher, an accounting major scheduled to graduate in December, leads the OVC this season in innings pitched and appearances (43), while ranking second in strikeouts (152) and wins. She is 19-17 with a 2.42 ERA.
Like Summers and McDonald, she said her experience at Southeast has been enjoyable.
"It's been great here," she said. "The camaraderie of the girls ... we'll be friends for life."